Farmington — Another outlet for low-cost cellular service will soon be offered on the Navajo Nation.
The Federal Communications Commission approved the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Wireless LLC to offer affordable cellular service on the reservation.
The FCC issued its decision on Feb. 18, designating NTUA Wireless as an eligible telecommunications carrier for Lifeline Service.
Lifeline Service is a federal program that provides a discount on monthly telephone service for eligible low-income individuals residing on tribal lands.
Michael Scully, general manager of NTUA Wireless, said being designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier makes it possible to provide inexpensive service to the Navajo Nation.
"This was a big step, getting the (eligible telecommunications carrier) designation," Scully said in a telephone interview Thursday from the company's headquarters in Chinle, Ariz.
Although an official launch date has not been scheduled, the company is looking forward to selling products and service plans at NTUA district offices in Shiprock and in Chinle, Dilkon, Fort Defiance, Kayenta and Tuba City in Arizona, he said.
NTUA Wireless, which formed in 2011, is a joint venture between Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, which owns 51 percent, and Commnet, a subsidiary of Atlantic Tele-Network, which owns the rest.
It provides Internet access to schools and businesses throughout the Navajo Nation and has 43 sites across the reservation that offer 4G LTE (long term evolution) service.
Scully said offering mobile communication was a "logical step" for NTUA, which supplies electricity, natural gas, water, wastewater treatment and renewable services to homes and businesses on the reservation.
Unlike most of the cellphone companies offering service on the reservation, NTUA Wireless has committed to being regulated by the Navajo Nation Telecommunications Regulatory Commission.
This is "significant" because it places the tribe's telecommunications regulatory commission at the same level as the public utility commissions in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, said Brian Tagaban, executive director of the tribe's telecommunications regulatory commission.
The only other company regulated by the tribe's telecommunications regulatory commission is Cellular One for the service it provides on tribal land in Utah, Tagaban said.Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.